The first two books (Laski and Leeds) contrast in an interesting way. Leeds has captured the Lord Chancellor’s Department’s Family Courts Outcomes Committee; see p1 of Ill Eagle 20. They are committed to falsifying statistics.
BL Shelf mark X.529/2065
Marghanita Laski, Ecstasy, pub. Cresset Press 1961,
TO MY HUSBAND
Ecstasy and Sexual Love
Among contemporary secular people of the kind that composed my questionnaire group sexual love appears to be a common trigger [of ecstasy]. In this group sexual love was named as a trigger by 43% of people (18 women and 8 men). Eleven of these people (6 men and 5 women) made unmistakable references to sexual intercourse, and of other references to ‘love’, ‘being in love’, etc., sexual intercourse was probably implied in several cases.
It is certain that the people who claimed ecstasy from sexual intercourse did not confuse ecstasy with the pleasures of sexual orgasm. Many of those questioned were married people, yet they did not claim to have known ecstasy more often than people who named only other triggers [of ecstasy]. In the questionnaire group, of those who said that ecstasy had been induced in them by intercourse and named no other trigger, none claimed ecstasy more often than in tens, while two people claimed it once only and one person twice. Of the people who gave sexual intercourse together with other triggers, none claimed ecstasy more often than in tens, and most people in units.
If then my respondents are not all abnormally low in their sexual responses, the feelings that they identify as ecstasy cannot be equated with the feelings they normally derive from sexual intercourse, and this is true both for men and for women.
The evidence that ecstasy is a rare phenomenon is not, then, modified by considerations of ecstasies induced by sexual intercourse. Ecstasies with this trigger, at least among the kind of contemporary secular people of the kind I questioned, are no more or less rare than ecstasies induced by nature or by art.
Nor do they appear to differ appreciably in content. ....
Now from the other book, below;
“Penetration is an act of great symbolic significance by which the oppressor enters the body of the oppressed. But it is more than a symbol, its function and effect is the punishment and control of women. It is not just rape which serves this function but every act of penetration, even when it is euphemistically described as ‘making love’. We have all heard men say about an uppity woman, ‘What she needs is a good fuck’. This is no idle remark. Every man knows that a fucked woman is woman under the control of men, whose body is open to men, a woman who is tamed and broken in.”
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 10 Micropaedia, 15th edn., p676;
sexual intercourse, also called COITUS, or COPULATION, reproductive act in which the male reproductive organ (in humans and other higher animals) enters the female reproductive tract. ....
In human beings, a pattern of physiological events occurs during sexual arousal and intercourse. .... The basic pattern is similar in both sexes, regardless of specific sexual stimulus. ....
BL Shelf mark YK.1994.a.2929
Ed. Onlywomen Press, Love your enemy? The debate between heterosexual feminism and political lesbianism , pub. Onlywomen Press Ltd., 38 Mount Pleasant, London WC1X 0AP
Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group (WIRES 81)
Paper first given to a conference in sep 1979
We are publishing this pamphlet because we think that the discussion among feminists about political lesbianism is important. The Leeds Revolutionary Feminists paper was originally written as a conference paper and then published in WIRES, the internal national newsletter of the women’s liberation movement. Many women have heard of the debate who have never read any of the papers. It generated so much interest and feeling that we wanted to make the arguments available in a more permanent form. But our publication of the Paper and the ensuing correspondence does not mean that we as a collective necessarily agree with or support the positions stated or the ways in which they are stated. ....
We know that the question of whether all feminists should be lesbians is not new. [ Smacking and More Note 1] We have had to work out our ideas on the subject because often when we talk about our politics and what it means to say men are the enemy, with other women, we are asked whether we are saying that all feminists should be lesbians.
We realise that the topic is explosive. It is something we are supposed to talk about at home and in close and trusted groups of friends and not make political statements about the movement, lest our heterosexual sisters accuse us of woman-hating. Is it true that we must conceal our strong beliefs on the subject when talking with other feminists? We would like to raise the whole issue for discussion in a workshop; not just whether all feminists should be lesbians, but precisely why we think they should be and whether and how we may begin to talk about it more openly.
We do think that all feminists can and should be political lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. Id does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women. The paper is divided into two parts. The first covers the reasons why we think serious feminists have no choice but to abandon heterosexuality. The second is arranged in the form of questions raised and comments made to us about the subject of political lesbianism and the way we think they should be answered.
(1) What heterosexuality is and why it must be abandoned.
What part does sexuality play in the oppression of women? Only in the system of oppression that is male supremacy does the oppressor actually invade and colonise the interior of the body of the oppressed. Attached to all forms of sexual behaviour are meanings of dominance and submission, power and powerlessness, conquest and humiliation. There is very special importance attached to sexuality under male supremacy when every sexual reference, every sexual joke, every sexual image serves to remind a woman of her invaded centre and a man of his power. Why all this fuss in our culture about sex? Because it is specifically through sexuality that the fundamental oppression, that of men over women, is maintained. (This should be a book, can’t really be gone into now.)
The heterosexual couple.
The heterosexual couple is the basic unit of the political structure of male supremacy. In it each individual woman comes under the control of an individuals man. It is more efficient by far than keeping women in ghettoes, camps or even sheds at the bottom of the garden. In the couple, love and sex are used to obscure the realities of oppression, to prevent women identifying with each other in order to revolt, and from identifying ‘their’ man as part of the enemy. Any woman who takes part in a heterosexual couple helps to shore up male supremacy by making its foundations stronger.
Penetration (wherever we refer to penetration, we mean penetration by the penis) is not necessary to the sexual pleasure of women or even of men. Its performance leads to reproduction or tedious/dangerous forms of contraception. Why then does it lie at the heart of the sexualised culture of this particular stage of male supremacy? Why are more and more women, at younger and younger ages, encouraged by psychiatrists, doctors, marriage guidance counsellors, the porn industry, the growth movement, lefties and masters and Johnson to get fucked more and more often? Because the form of oppression of women under male supremacy is changing. As more women are able to earn a little more money and the pressures of reproduction are relieved so the hold of individual men and men as a class over women is being strengthened through sexual control.
The function of penetration.
Penetration is an act of great symbolic significance by which the oppressor enters the body of the oppressed. But it is more than a symbol, its function and effect is the punishment and control of women., It is not just rape which serves this function but every act of penetration, even when it is euphemistically described as ‘making love’. We have all heard men say about an uppity woman, ‘What she needs is a good fuck’. This is no idle remark. Every man knows that a fucked woman is woman under the control of men, whose body is open to men, a woman who is tamed and broken in. Before the sexual revolution there was no mistake being about penetration being for the benefit of men. The sexual revolution is a con trick. It serves to disguise the oppressive nature of male sexuality and we are told that penetration is for our benefit as well.
Every act of penetration for a woman is an invasion which undermines her confidence and saps her strength. For a man it is an act of power and mastery which makes him stronger, not just over a woman but over all women. So every woman who engages in penetration bolsters the oppressor and reinforces the class power of men.
(2) Questions and Comments.
(a) Bit it sounds like you are saying that heterosexual women are the enemy!
No. Men are the enemy. Heterosexual women are collaborators with the enemy. All the good work that our heterosexual feminist sisters do for women is undermined by the counter-revolutionary activity
they engage in with men. Being a heterosexual feminist is like being in the resistance in Nazi-occupied Europe where in the daytime you blow up a bridge, in the evening you rush to repair it. .... Every woman who lives with or fucks a man helps to maintain the oppression of her sisters and hinders our struggle.
(b) But we don’t do penetration, my boyfriend and me.
If you engage in any form of sexual activity with a man you are reinforcing his class power. You may escape the most extreme form of ritual humiliation but because of the emotional accretions to any form of heterosexual behaviour, men gain great advantages and women lose. There is no such thing as ‘pure’ sexual pleasure. Such ‘pleasure’ is created by fantasy, memory and experience. Sexual ‘pleasure’ cannot be separated from the emotions that accompany the exercise of power and the experience of powerlessness.
(If you don’t do penetration, why not take a woman lover? If you strip a man of his unique ability to humiliate, you are left with a creature who is merely worse at every sort of sensual activity than a woman is).
But my boyfriend does not penetrate me, I enclose him.
A rose is a rose by any other name and so is penetration. Or possibly, ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a boar’s ear’ is a more apt expression. The kindest interpretation is to say that believing in enclosure is wishful thinking. It would be more realistic to say that it is cop-out and a rationalisation for continuing the activity. Enclosure, where an active vagina (helped by strengthening exercises) sucks in a penis could only take place where a woman and a man were born fully formed, totally innocent, on an uninhabited desert island (where they might well never discover fucking anyway). No act of penetration takes place in isolation. Each takes place in a system of relationships that is male supremacy. As no individual woman can be ‘liberated’ under male supremacy, so no act of penetration can escape its function and its symbolic power.
(d) But I like fucking.
Giving up fucking for a feminist is about taking your politics seriously. Women who are socialists are prepared to give up many things which they might enjoy because they see how these things tie into the support system of economic class oppression which they are fighting. They will resist buying Cape apples because the profits go to South Africa. Obviously it is more difficult for some feminists to give up penetration which is so fundamental to the system of oppression which we are fighting.
It is much easier for you in the lesbian ghetto than for me. I have to live out the contradiction of my politics which is a hard, relentless, day-by-day struggle with the man I live with.
That’s simply not true. Living without heterosexual privilege is difficult and dangerous. Try going into pubs with groups of women or living in a women’s house where youths in the street lay siege with stones and catcalls.
Heterosexual privileges are male approval, more safety from physical attack ....
(f) But lesbian relationships are also fucked up by power struggles
That is sometimes true, but the power of one woman is never backed up by a superior sex-class position. Struggles between women do not directly strengthen the oppression of all women or build up the strength of men. Personal perfection in relationships is not a realistic goal under male supremacy. Lesbianism is a necessary political choice, part of the tactics of our struggle, not a passport to paradise.
(g) I won’t give up what I’ve got unless what you offer me is better
We never offered you a rose garden. We do not say that all feminists should be lesbians because it is wonderful. The lesbian dream of woman-loving, bare-breasted, guitar-playing softballers, gambolling on the sun-soaked hillsides is more suited to California, supposing it bears any resemblance to reality, than to Hackney.
But yet, it is better to be lesbian. The advantages include the pleasure of knowing that you are not directly servicing men, living without the strain of a glaring contradiction in your personal life, uniting the personal and the political, loving and putting your energies into those you are fighting alongside rather than those you are fighting against, and the possibility of greater trust, honesty and directness in your communication with women.
Communication with heterosexual women is fraught with difficulties, with static which comes from their relationships with men. Men distort such communication. A heterosexual woman will have a different perception and reaction to things you say; she may be defensive and it is likely to be thinking ‘What about Nigel?’ When you talk of women’s interests and the future and survival of women, her imagination may be blocked by concern for her man and his brothers. You feel under pressure to say nice things which will not threaten her.
(h) You are guilt-tripping us
No. Guilt-tripping is used to prevent women from telling the truth as they see it and from talking about hard political realities. It is you, heterosexual sisters, who are guilt-tripping us. It is possible to stop collaborating and asking you to do that is not guilt-tripping.
(i) Are all lesbian feminists political lesbians?
No. Some women who are lesbians and feminists work closely with men on the male left (either in groups or in women’s causes with them), or provide mouthpieces within the women’s liberation movement for men’s ideas even when non-aligned. It may well be that these women find it more difficult to see that men are the enemy because they are treated as substitute but inferior men by left males and are able to feel superior to the straight women who are still struggling against sexual oppression in their beds. They are not woman-identified and gain privileges through associating with men and putting forward ideas which are only mildly unacceptable to male left ideology.
(j) But you don’t understand how difficult it is to give up men.
Most of us know from personal experience how practically difficult and painful it is to decide not to fuck again and get out from the man we live with any/or love. It is usually only done with the love, support and strength of other women who have made that break and whose criticism and straight-talking spurred us on. We know that for some women, e.g. those with children, those with easy access to movement, and those without the experience of living on their own, the break is more difficult than for others and they need more time and practical support. We know how difficult it is to find a women’s house to move into and what it is like to feel like a ‘new girl’ at the women’s disco. But part of the support must be in explaining as clearly as possible the political reasons for our own choice and talking honestly about all the difficulties with the women who are making it.
Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group’s paper “Political lesbianism ....” offended and angered me, but I’m glad they wrote it ....
I know there’s unspoken tension between lesbians and heterosexual feminists. We’re suspicious of each other ....
Standard, sexist heterosexual sex with penetration as the unquestioned pinnacle is oppressive to women and tailored to men’s interests, but that’s not news and it’s not contentious. The tragedy is that women’s tentative attempts to explore and reveal and challenge standard sexual practice have been killed stone dead by the two commandments that if you do it with women you’re OK and if you do it with men, you’re not.
“If you engage in any form of sexual activity with a man you are reinforcing his class power.” Full stop. End of discussion.
But lesbianism, we’re told, provides “the pleasure of loving without the strain of a glaring contradiction in your personal life, ....”
What’s the secret? My “personal life” (I’m a lesbian) is riddled with glaring contradictions .... I have very few friends I really trust and none of them is a lover. .... I suspect that I’m not [unique]. And where’s the evidence that heterosexual women can’t and don’t develop close, trusting, loving relationships with other women? ....
In sisterhood, Frankie Rickford. (Wires 82)
I think the Leeds Revolutionary Femonist paper on political lesbianism is neither revolutionary nor feminist, nor even about lesbianism. I think it has nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality. I think it is an exercise in political maneuvering, part of an attempt to restructure the Women’s Liberation Movement, to transform the movement from an open, broad-based mass movement to a closed grouping of cadre units, along the lines of certain left-wing groups, complete with party line and perty discipline. This is perhaps what many women want - there is certainly widespread desire for new directions within the movement - but I would prefer to call a spade a spade.
To return to my opening point, I find the political lesbianism paper profoundly revisionist. That is, it revises the meanings of two concepts, and depends on these (hidden) revisions for its emotive force. First of all, it revises the meaning of “the personal is political”. I want to take up these two points separately.
The first wave, so to speak, of political lesbianism in the mid-seventies or thereabouts .... came from within the radical feminist strands of the WLM in America. It is based on the notion that all women learn an element of self-hatred when they learn to become women in a society which is fundamentally based on women’s subjection. All women, whether heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, or asexual, internalise a further heavy dose of self-hatred when they acquire their specific sexual orientation. Heterosexist norms, as constructed and exercised by the male class, ensure that all women, in different ways, feel sexually isolated from other women.
The important thing for me about political lesbianism, as it was first conceived, was that it was a call for unity among women, based on our common experience of learning to know and care for each other. I found it a profoundly creative experience, opening me to parts of myself I had never before acknowledged, opening me to other women in ways I had never dreamed possible. It allowed me to feel connected to all women, women I didn’t know, women I didn’t like, women I admired, women I desired.
So now I feel the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist paper has totally revised the meaning of political lesbianism. My reading of the paper is that poltical lesbianism has very little to do with caring for and bonding with other women, but rather to do with rejecting men. Certainly there is nothing wrong with rejecting men, most of my best friends reject men, but that is not the same thing as caring for women. Nor is it a start in the right direction. Just because men are awful doesn’t mean that women are wonderful. I think we are wonderful, even those of us who are horrible. ....
.... The fact that many women do experience quite a lot of power in their heterosexual relationships .... is dismissed. .... I marvel at the paper’s ability to be so authoritative about every single act of penetration. .... Since revolutionary feminists don’t have sexual relations with men, then how can they be so authoritative about what those relations must always be like? ....
In sisterhood, Debbie Gregory
BL Shelf Mark YA.1994.b.7503
Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, pub. Simon & Schuster 1994.
Recently several male students at Vassar were falsely accused of date rape. After their innocence was established, the assistant dean of students, Catherine Comins, said of their ordeal: “They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I did not violate her, could I have?’’ Do I have the potential to do to her what they said i did?’ These are good questions.” Dean Comins clearly feels justified in trumping the common law principle “presumed innocent until proven guilty” by the new feminist principle, “guilty even if proven innocent.” Indeed, she believes that the students are not really innocent after all. How so? Because, being male and being brought up in the patriarchal culture, they could easily have done what they were falsely accused of having done, even though they didn’t actually do it. Where men are concerned, Comins quite sincerely believes in collective guilt. Moreover, she feels she can rely on her audience to be in general agreement with her on this.
The idea of collective guilt may sound like the theological doctrine of original sin, but in Christianity, at least, it applies equally to all human beings. Racists and gender feminists are more “discriminating.”
In the spring of 1993, nine women students, who were taking a course called “Contemporary Issues in Feminist Art” at the University of Maryland, distributed posters and fliers all over the campus with the names of dozens of male students under the heading “Notice: These Men Are Potential Rapists.” The women knew nothing whatever about the bearers of the names; they had simply chosen them at random from the university directory to use in their class project. The instructor, Josephine Withers, would not comment to the press.
The New Feminists are a powerful source of mischief because their leaders are not good at seeing things as they are. Resenter feminists like Faludi, French, Heilbrun and MacKinnon speak of a [mythic] backlash .... against women. .... There is no radical militant wing of a masculinist movement. To the extent one can speak at all of a gender war, it is the New Feminists themselves who are waging it.
Gender feminists are committed to the doctrine that the vast majority of batterers or rapists are not fringe characters but men whom society regards as normal - sports fans, former fraternity brothers, pillars of the community. For these “normal” men, women are not so much persons as “objects”. In the gender feminist view, once a woman is “objectified” and therefore no longer human, battering her is simply the next logical step.
Just how “normal” are men who batter? Are they ordinary husbands? These are legitimate questions, but the road to reasonable answers is all too often blocked by feminist dogmas. By setting aside the feminist road-blocks, we can discern some important truths.
Are the batterers really just your average Joe? If the state of Massachusetts is typical - the large majority of batterers are criminals. Andrew Klein .... found that almost 80% of the first 8,500 subjects of restraining orders had prior criminal records in the state. ....
The gender feminists believe that the average man is a potential batterer because that is how he is “socialised” in the patriarchy. But ideology aside, there are indications that those who batter are not average....
My prediction is that Mr. Klein’s important findings will be ignored. What use is it to gender warriors like Marilyn French and Gloria Steinem to show that violent criminals tend to abuse their wives and girlfriends and other males as well? Their primary purpose is to persuade the public that the so-called normal man is a morally defective human being who gets off on hurting women.
There are other important studies that could help shed light on battering and could ultimately help many victims who are ignored because their batterers do not fit the gender feminist stereotype. It turns out that lesbians may be battering each other at the same rate as heterosexuals. Several books and articles document the problem of violence among lesbians. ....
Richard Gelles claims that whenever male researchers question exaggerated findings on domestic battery, it is never long before rumours begin circulating that he himself is a batterer. For female sceptics, however, the situation appears to be equally intimidating. .... Suzanne K. Steinmetz, a co-investigator .... received calls threatening her family, and there was a bomb threat at a conference where she spoke. [When Erin Pizzey, who founded the first women’s refuge, said she had found that 62 out of the first 100 women in her Chiswick refuge were themselves violent, she received death threats and was given police protection. In the end, however, she was forced to leave Britain for 15 years. After her return, I visited her at her secret address. At the Sisterhood’s conference on DV to which I was sent recently by ManKind (See Ill Eagle 19), I correctly predicted that Pizzey would not be mentioned. American researchers into DV who reported finding female violence also report
receiving death threats. - Ivor Catt] .